Dubai - The eyes of the world’s aerospace and defence industries will be on Dubai this weekend as one of the industry’s biggest air shows takes off.

While the larger Farnborough and Paris events may attract more visitors and exhibitors, Dubai has in recent years been where most of the biggest deals have been done. Like its European rivals, the Gulf emirate’s five-day show will be a battleground for commercial aircraft sales between Airbus, Boeing, and the second-tier manufacturers.

But Dubai is also a key venue for arms deals. The sensitivity of defence contracts means many are negotiated below the radar. Given the scale of Middle East defence budgets few arms manufacturers can afford not to have a presence at Dubai.

All the major names will be among the 1,300 exhibitors showing up this week, including Britain’s BAE Systems, France’s Dassault, and the biggest defence firm of all, America’s Lockheed Martin, will all be out in force.

The latest Military Balance report from the Institute of Strategic Studies says that as a proportion of gross domestic product - the size of the economy - seven of the top 10 biggest spenders are countries in the Middle East or North Africa. Oman is top of the rankings, committing 11% of GDP to defence spending, followed by Saudi Arabia with 10.8%. Last year the US defence budget was 3.1% of GDP, while in Europe - as President Donald Trump has often critically noted - many NATO members fail to hit the 2% target. Greater insecurity in the region means, inevitably, that defence spending will rise, says Charles Forrester, analyst at the information and intelligence group Jane’s.

He says: “Events over the past year, as Iran has become increasingly aggressive, have shown that there is a strong need for surveillance capabilities to ensure that critical national infrastructure remains secure, and that governments have the right information to respond.”

Britain’s Royal Air Force has, without the usual fanfare that often accompanies such things, decided to send out a Typhoon fighter jet, made by BAE Systems and its European partners. And the French Air Force is displaying its rival Rafale jet, spurring speculation there could be contracts in the offing for both fighters.

Dubai will, for the first time, see an appearance of America’s F-35 Lighting II fighter, whose development costs are estimated to be $1.5tn (£1.2tn) over the lifetime of the decades-long programme.

Given the geo-political nature of the defence industry, the appearance of the F-35 may influence whether Russia sends its rival stealth fighter, the Sukhoi Su-57.